In Juneau, if you don’t play in the rain, you don’t play. So, I play, dance and work in rain, all within the Tongass National Forest, the largest contiguous temperate rainforest in the world.
I have to admit, however, that I prefer more sunshine to the incessant rain that is dousing Southeast Alaska this summer. Rarely does a day go by without some sort of precipitation.
Juneau receives only about 40 sunny days a year, another 40 or so partly cloudy, partly sunny days, and the rest of the year, precipitation: drizzle, rain, snow, sleet, fog. This year, June and July recorded new rainfall records. According to the Alaska Climate Research Center, Juneau’s precipitation totaled:
– June: 74% heavier than normal with about 7.4 inches.
– July: 180% heavier than normal or about 8.2 inches.
– August: 49% heavier than normal or about 8.5 inches.
Being an outdoor excursion guide, I often hear my guests grumble about the cool, cloudy, rainy days. Some are very vocal with their grievances. Like I can do anything about the weather! I, however, have sympathy for customers who book the excursion of a lifetime, but are unprepared for the elements. On the other hand, excursion descriptions advise customers to pack rain gear and to wear layers. Juneau is nestled within the largest temperate rainforest in the world: hint, “temperate” and “rainforest”.
That said, visitors come to Southeast Alaska (SEAK) with an expectation of seeing profuse wildlife, a forest of magnificent proportions and landscapes dominated by snow-capped mountains, glistening glaciers and roaring waterfalls. Without the persistent rain, however, none of SEAK’s beauty or bounty would exist . Seemingly, the teaming masses of moss and mushrooms, lofty conifers and wild creatures thrive within the rain’s embrace.
My cruise ship guests often ask me, “what is the best month to visit SEAK?” I tell them, “It depends on what you want to experience and what weather are you willing to tolerate. “
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration , Juneau’s:
- – Driest months, April and June.
- – Cloudiest days and probability of precipitation start increasing in mid-July.
- – Wettest months, September and October, rains nearly every day in October.
- – Warmest month, July, 55 to 65 degrees, occasionally reaching the high 70s.
- – Coldest month, January, 25 to 30 degrees, but may be lower or higher.
“The best chance for both warm temperatures and dry periods, for a visit to Southeast Alaska, is from April through early July,” states the NOAA website.
Text and photos by Aleta Walther © 2014
Naturalist, Outdoor Excursion Guide, CIG, CTA, ATG